North Korea`s new leader makes diplomatic debut

Kim Jong Un the marshal became Kim Jong Un the statesman as he talked with Chinese political dignitaries in meetings.

Updated: Aug 04, 2012, 11:36 AM IST

Seoul: Kim Jong Un the marshal became Kim Jong Un the statesman as he talked with Chinese political dignitaries in meetings, state media reported on Saturday.

This was Kim Jong Un’s first official foray into foreign affairs since becoming North Korea`s leader.

Kim told Wang Jiarui, the head of the Communist Party`s international affairs office, that his government is focussed on building the economy, then invited the Chinese delegation to a banquet yesterday, China`s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Korean Central News Agency reported the meeting without details on their discussions.

The occasion was Kim`s diplomatic debut as leader of North Korea, seven months after he took power following the December death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be 29, has been swift in moving to build loyalty among North Korea`s 24 million people and to establish control over key institutions such as the military and ruling Workers` Party.

He also has been quick to show his rule will differ in style from that of his father, who kept his personal life out of the state media, rarely travelled abroad and met only selectively with foreign dignitaries.

After gaining the new title of marshal and shuffling the military leadership last month, Kim Jong Un made the surprise introduction of his wife, Ri Sol Ju. Kim also has emphasised raising the standard of living as a main goal of his leadership, an objective laid out for him by his father.

"Developing the economy and improving livelihoods so that the (North) Korean people lead happy and civilised lives is the goal the Workers` Party is struggling towards," Xinhua reported Kim as telling Wang.

The talks took place as swaths of North Korean farms remained submerged after heavy rains. More than 120 people were killed and tens of thousands lost their homes in fierce storms last month, state media said.

The United Nations called today for immediate food assistance for North Koreans living in three flooded counties.
Earlier this year, the UN said two-thirds of North Korea`s 24 million are coping with chronic food shortages.

Kim`s choice to host the Chinese comes as no surprise. China poured troops into North Korea to help fight the US-led United Nations forces during the 1950-53 Korean War and remains Pyongyang`s main ally and biggest benefactor.

Though the relationship has been cool at times, with Pyongyang periodically snubbing the nation that considers itself a big brother to tiny North Korea, ties have deepened in recent years as North Korea has become increasingly reliant on China for much-needed food, oil and trade.